Ocean Shores’ own ‘Larry Legend’ retires after nearly four decades

After nearly four decades as head basketball coach, Hyaks’ Larry Moore retires

He won more than 450 games, was nominated for the state coaches Hall of Fame and even had the school’s gym named in his honor.

But perhaps Larry Moore’s greatest distinction was that he never missed a practice — let alone a game — during his long career as North Beach High School’s head boys basketball coach.

“It really wasn’t a job for me,” Moore reflected. “It was a passion.”

The 65-year-old Moore recently retired after 39 years on the bench at North Beach. He stepped down with 460 wins and nine state-tournament appearances on his resume. He even did double duty as head boys and girls basketball coach for a couple of years so he could coach his daughter, Reilly.

“He loved basketball so much. And he loved the beach kids more,” said Peter Fry, who played for Moore from 2000 through 2003 and is currently North Beach’s track coach.

Basketball coaching wasn’t on Moore’s radar while growing up in Aberdeen. Baseball was his favorite sport — not surprising considering that his father, the late Red Moore, was a longtime Little League and Babe Ruth coach in Aberdeen.

Undersized even by point guard standards, Moore played basketball at Aberdeen High School but didn’t start until five games into his senior year.

But legendary Bobcat coach Dick Dixon, impressed by Moore’s intensity and court sense (“I could see things on the floor that other kids didn’t,” Moore acknowledged), suggested he should consider coaching as a career option.

After a year assisting Jim Mossel at Grays Harbor College, Moore was hired as North Beach’s head coach in 1985. There was little in his early years with the Hyaks to indicate that a successful career was in the offing. His overall record after eight seasons was 46-125.

But bolstered by the support of North Beach administrators and a corps of key parents (he mentioned the Papp and Pope families as particularly helpful), Moore oversaw a dramatic turnaround beginning in 1993-1994. The Hyaks surprised nearly everyone by qualifying for state that season, ushering in an era in which they earned six state berths during a nine-year span.

Led by Sam Sage, Mike Lilja, Kelley Ferguson and Marty Carlson, the Hyaks captured the district Class B championship in 1998.

Moore now admits that the early adversity helped make him a better coach.

“One thing you learn is that you don’t know it all,” he said with a laugh.

Although the two were poles apart temperamentally, Moore adopted many of his coaching principles from Hall of Fame college coach Bobby Knight. He was, however, far less controlling than the volatile former Indiana University coach.

“I think giving kids freedom is important, letting them be aggressive without pulling the reins too tight,” Moore said.

“His favorite quote was ‘master the fundamentals,’” Fry added. “We had a framework (with which to play). But he really relied on building your basketball IQ.”

Moore’s North Beach teams typically featured an up-tempo attack, a healthy dose of perimeter shooting and aggressive man-to-man defense.

“He wanted to play fast and he wanted to play man-to-man,” said longtime former Willapa Valley coach John Peterson, ironically also Moore’s immediate predecessor at North Beach. “If they could play man-to-man and stick it in your face, they would.”

One of Moore’s greatest thrills and biggest disappointments came on consecutive days in the 1996 state Class B tournament.

With his team trailing Summit by two points in the closing seconds of an opening round game, a Hyak shot an air ball. But brawny North Beach center Jon Johnson made a leaping save to prevent the ball from going out of bounds and passed back to teammate Ben Sheaffer, who made a three-point shot for a 54-53 victory.

The Hyaks were on the brink of their first-ever state semifinal berth the following day when they took a six-point lead over Saint George’s into the final two minutes of their quarterfinal matchup. Saint George’s, however, capitalized on some missed Hyak foul shots to pull out a 59-57 win en route to a state runner-up finish.

Moore’s teams did, however, collect a pair of state trophies, placing seventh in 1997 and eighth in 2009.

When Brad Fuhrer retired as Aberdeen High School’s boys basketball coach, Moore was rumored to be among the candidates to succeed him. But he opted against applying for the opening at his alma mater.

He and his wife, Christy, owned a home they liked in Ocean Shores and Larry was adamant that he would not commute.

“My philosophy is if I’m going to be a head coach, you need to (live) in the district,” he emphasized.

The Moores will soon be moving to Bellingham, where they met as students at Western Washington University.

Larry’s legacy at North Beach, however, will endure. In a ceremony that came as a surprise to Moore, the Hyaks’ home court was recently named the Larry Moore House of Pain Gym.

Borrowed from the Houston Astrodome during a period when the National Football League’s Houston Oilers were dominant at home, the “House of Pain’ designation was first applied to North Beach’s former gym at Moclips, but survived the school’s move to Oyehut.

The late Bob Sutter, Moore’s longtime friend and coaching colleague, popularized the nickname (and always claimed that a visiting girls basketball coach, South Bend’s Mike Morris, actually coined the term). But the Hyaks were indeed difficult to beat at home during Moore’s best years.

“I’m very blessed,” Moore reflected. “I’ve had a lot of great memories in that gym. I guess I hope that people respected the time I spent preparing for the games.”

“I always enjoyed playing against Larry, because he was such a competitor but there was never any ill will,” Peterson summarized. “He’s a Hall of Fame coach.”

Moore’s time on the bench might not be over. Although he doubts that he would ever again serve as a head coach, he might seek some volunteer assistant jobs in the Bellingham area.

“It’s going to be tough not coaching,” he concluded.